The new and growing market for eBooks has allowed companies to call into question some of the basic and universal characteristics of reading and owning books. That you can loan them to your friends, for example, or that by purchasing a book you’re also purchasing the ability to read it whenever you want, wherever you want, until you lose it, donate it, give it away, or wear through its well-loved spine.
eBook publishers have, to put it mildly, established that these are qualities of a book that they do not intend to carry over to the new format, which is to a certain extent fine, so long as consumers know what they’re getting into. But the eBook market also has other problems, namely accusations of price fixing, and, due to the combination of software that limits the kind of device a given eBook can be read on and the dominance of the Kindle over the eReader market, bullying tactics. A new lawsuit filed by three independent bookstores is looking to strike at the heart of the problem: the insistance of eReader makers that their books should not be readable on other devices.